In search of some water that isn’t so smeary

Ew! Gross! Don’t swim in there! Sounds familiar? If yes, you must know Lake Erie.

Most people know that Lake Erie is heavily polluted and has a history of dead fish and algal blooms.

What you may not know is that in the 1970’s, Lake Erie was known around the world for its horrible state, after working hard, we succeeded in improving the water quality significantly. Sadly, it is now once again back to the excessive levels that caused all those problems in the 70s. We need to recognize and acknowledge that Lake Erie is in trouble again and that we need to act.

The source? A major one is runoffs from our fields and properties including high phosphorus fertilizer and manure. Once again, we must act, like in the 70s, and this time it needs to last.

To reduce or prevent the runoffs we can start by growing plant buffers along streams, lakefront and anywhere water flows. Also, like Dale Cowan wrote in Better Farming magazine from March 2020, we can minimize fertilizer and manure use, apply it closer to spring for quicker uptake and place cover crops in empty beds to hold in nutrients and control erosion losses. Conservation Ontario offers watershed stewardship programs that can help you with grants and advice.

The water quality issue of Lake Erie touches many of us and we all need to work together to try to prevent this gross and harmful runoff from reaching our Lake. You may not be the cause and are certainly not the only one, but by implementing practical and doable ideas and suggestions you can help!


Vanessa Matten


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  1. Unfortunately, don’t point the fingers at Farmers.. Fertilizers, Seed, and other inputs for farmers these days are so expensive, those farmers don’t put excessive amounts on lands because it is economic Bankruptcy for them, their margins being so small.
    I blame two things, as the former VP of the Northshore Property Owners Association, and my mandate being water quality and sewage release into the Great lakes, 1. "Grey-water" disposal by most cottagers (they want the conveniences of home, but, don’t want to pay the ‘Tipping’ fees for Holding Tanks) is from a pipe dropping grey water under their cottages, and 2. their inane habit of burning firewood on the beaches.. Both put high levels of Phosphates into the lake after heavy rains..
    Another thing to add, is that the United States EPA allows all cities, towns, and municipalities bounding the Great Lakes, and their American stream/rivers emptying into the Great Lakes, to dump raw sewage, for a 24 hour period, "each week"..

  2. Thank you Ms Matten. Great letter with a clear outline of the problem and a solution.. Unfortunately depending on who it is, action on this issue varies from flying off to conferences to blockading roads. None of which gets the job done. Education and enforcement are the only things that can work. And they are the things that aren’t happening.

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